The Senegalese Minister of Health and Preventive Medicine, Modou Diagne Fada, confirmed that the country had been hit by the epidemic AH1N1 influenza. According to earlier reports, the first cases were detected in the religious city of Touba and nearby Diourbel (located in the central part of the country).
These places where the scene of religious festivities, as hundreds of thousands of followers of the Mouride Muslim Brotherhood, last week gathered to celebrate the 115th edition of “Grand Magal” of Touba, in memory of the departure into exile in Gabon in 1895 of the founder of the Brotherhood, Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba. Serign Bamba, as the religious leader as called, is a revered figure for millions in this part of Africa.
Health Minister Diagne Monday convened a press briefing not only to confirm the outbreak of the disease, but also to allay fears, saying that the country was equipped enough to contain the situation.
According to the Health Minister, 14 cases of influenza A H1N1 were recorded between the three districts of Dagana, Diourbel and Touba.
Influenza, sometimes referred to as flu, is an infectious disease caused by a virus which affects birds and mammals. Sore throat, fever and coughs are some of the most frequent symptoms.
In April 2009 a strain of the flu evolved, which health experts say combined genes from human, pig, and bird flu, initially dubbed "swine flu" and also known as influenza A/H1N1. It first emerged in Mexico, the United States, and then several other nations. The World Health Organization officially declared the outbreak as a pandemic two months later.
According to health experts, Senegal does not yet have a preventive vaccine. But the Senegalese Health Minister is already calling for patients suspected of infection to be isolated until examination confirms their cases.
''We have enough resources to deal with influenza AH1N1,'' Dr Diagn said. ''We will deal with all cases and we have the means.''
The minister noted that among those infected none had died, and that all had in fact ‘‘been taken care of, treated and returned home.''